Middle school students honored for performance on college entrance exams

Pictured with Board of Trustees: Jackson Hughes (Gutierrez MS) and Jacob Fox (Coakley MS); Pictured individually: Jorge Gonzales (Vela MS)

During their regular meeting held Sept. 12, Harlingen CISD’s Board of Trustees recognized three middle school students who proved they have the intellectual prowess to go head to head with college-bound seniors by earning ACT or SAT scores that fell at or above the national average of recent high school graduates.

Jackson Hughes, Jacob Fox, and Jorge Gonzalez were invited to take the SAT as part of the Duke University Talent Identification Program’s prestigious 7th Grade Talent Search. Each year, Duke TIP identifies a group of academically talented students in the United States based on their exceptional grade-level standardized test scores. Only those who score at or above the 95th percentile qualify.

Hughes, a student at Gutierrez Middle School, received state and grand recognition for his exceptionally high scores that are approximately equal to the 90th percentile rank for college-bound seniors taking the tests. Only about 4 percent of the students who participate in the Duke TIP program reach this level.

As a member of the robotics club and the science UIL team at his school, Hughes said the choice was easy when deciding whether to take the ACT or SAT.

“I chose to take the ACT over the SAT because it has a science section – one of my strongest subjects,” he said. “It was a long and intimidating test, but I’m proud of how I did and lucky to have had the chance to take it during seventh grade.”

Receiving state recognition for earning scores that are approximately equal to the 50th national percentile rank for college-bound seniors taking the tests, were Fox from Coakley Middle School and Gonzales from Vela Middle School. Only about 35 percent of the students who participate in the Duke TIP program reach this level.

Along with the benefit of knowing how to prepare when he takes his college entrance exams during his junior or senior year, Hughes expressed that being selected for Duke TIP will create new opportunities for him as he pursues his dream of attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I feel this will help me when I apply for scholarships,” he said. “There’s also a camp over the summer that Duke TIP sponsors. If you get a high enough ACT or SAT score, you can go into it. I didn’t go last year, but this year I’m hoping to attend.”

Taking an above-grade-level test is an experience that allows gifted seventh graders to more accurately gauge their academic abilities and potential, as they need more advanced examinations than they find in their grade level.

Duke TIP is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving academically talented youth. As a global leader in gifted education, Duke TIP works with students, families, and educators to identify, recognize, challenge, engage, and support gifted youth in reaching their highest potential. More than 2.8 million students have benefited from TIP programs and resources since 1980. Duke TIP’s talent identification, academic, and research programs now serve as worldwide models for the education of gifted students. For more information about Duke TIP, please visit

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